Suit: Suspending licenses of poor who can’t pay tickets illegal

Lawyers in Tuesday’s suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, said the amnesty was far too limited and the state is still penalizing hundreds of thousands of former motorists for being poor.

News Story (California)

Bob Egelko
SF Gate
October 25, 2016

Tags: Driver's license suspension

Organizations mentioned/involved: Bay Area Legal Aid (San Francisco)


“No one should be forced to choose between keeping their driver’s license and putting food on the table for their family,” said Rebekah Evenson of Bay Area Legal Aid, lead attorney in the case. “What the state is doing is essentially keeping them in poverty.”
She said state law allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend a license only for “willfully” failing to pay a fine or appear in court — not for failing to pay sums you can’t afford.
“A failure to pay cannot be willful if the person did not in fact have the ability to pay,” the suit said. The lawyers also argued that the state’s enforcement policy “punishes similarly situated persons differently on the basis of wealth,” violating their constitutional rights.